The Jake Arrieta Experiment

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There was a game on Thursday night where the Chicago Cubs decided that they were, in fact, good at baseball.  Jake Arrieta was the pitcher and it appears that not only did the Atlanta Braves take notice, so did MLB:

Here are some interesting facts about Jake Arrieta‘s season so far:

And of course, this leads to the inevitable conversation:

It wasn’t that long ago that the Cubs traded Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger to the Baltimore Orioles to bring over a struggling-but-intriguing Arrieta and Pedro Strop (who everyone seems to hate, but whatever).  And just last year, while he was pretty good and might have deserved more than a 9th place finish, Arrieta blipped onto the Cy Young candidate radar.  This year, he’s been phenomenal.

Arrieta is doing the things that you want your stud pitcher to do.  He’s keeping the baseball in the ballpark.  He doesn’t walk too many guys.  He gets batters to swing and miss.  Thursday night, he didn’t allow a single fly ball to put a stop to the nonsense after the Detroit Tigers played Home Run Derby against the other two top guys in the rotation.  There’s no denying from the stats and production that Jake Arrieta has turned into the real deal.  He probably won’t get the Cy Young because Zack Greinke has been nuts over in LA and his Dodgers teammate, Clayton Kershaw, has remembered that he’s Clayton Kershaw, but Arrieta is just barely behind Greinke in WAR and is competitive with Kershaw in various peripherals.  That is legit.

So now what?  Well, Arrieta has two more years of club control after this one, after which he will become a free agent for the 2018 season.  He’s going to turn 30 before the 2016 season starts, and he’ll likely be close to what he’s been for the past two years.  The Cubs aren’t in danger of losing him anytime soon, and if they wanted to trade him (haha yeah right) they’d land a bounty.  But I immediately thought of the Corey Kluber extension with the Cleveland Indians earlier this season.  From Cot’s Contracts:

  • 5 years/$38.5M (2015-19), plus 2020-21 club options $0.601M (2015)
    • signed extension with Cleveland 4/5/15, replacing one-year deal for $0.601M signed 3/11/15
    • $1M signing bonus
    • 15:$1M, 16:$4.5M, 17:$7.5M, 18:$10.5M, 19:$13M, 20:$13.5M club option ($1M buyout), 21:$14M club option ($1M buyout)
    • value of options may increase up to $4M each based on finish in 2015-19 Cy Young votes
    • assignment bonus: $1M if traded
    • if traded in 2015-19, new club must exercise or decline both 2020 and 2021 options within 3 days after end of 2019 World Series
    • if traded in 2020, 2021 option converts to a vesting option guaranteed if Kluber has 160 innings pitched in 2020 and is not on the disabled list at the end of the 2020 season

There are various factors here, including whether Arrieta wants to test free agency (similar to what Jeff Samardzija did in rejecting extension offers).  Arrieta got a $1.1MM bonus when he was drafted by the Orioles in 2007, which is a far cry from what Samardzija received in his draft/MLB deal to give up football.  So the Cubs have some leeway to work with in terms of financial security for Jake.  The Kluber contract arranged by the Indians also seems reasonable given the age and Arrieta’s seemingly out-of-nowhere breakout as he entered arbitration.  I’d imagine the front office would use that as a comp, and the escalators and options would provide both player and team reasonable protection and return throughout the contract.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that because Jake is already in his arbitration years (he’ll be second-year eligible next season), his contract won’t necessarily be as backloaded as Kluber’s, and the yearly raises may also be higher since Kluber’s contract extension came as a pre-arbitration player.  But if you take the same basic principle, there’s no reason that the Cubs can’t work out a base of four years/$70MM (with escalators) and tack on a couple more options.  That way you buy out the final two years of arbitration, buy out a couple free agent years, and still, again, provide protection for player and organization.

UPDATE 8/30 8:55 PM: While Jake is mowing down Dodgers, I need to inform you that Scott Boras really wants to milk this opportunity.  I sort of forgot about the Homer Bailey and Rick Porcello extensions, so don’t be surprised, if the Cubs and Arrieta agree, if the eventual extension is upwards of $100MM.  Boras usually gets his clients paid, and Arrieta kind of deserves it.

I also explored a new Dexter Fowler deal earlier, as the Cubs start grabbing more revenue with their competitive window opening.  By the way, you’ve seen the pricing for playoff tickets this year, right?



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About Rice Cube

Rice Cube is the executive vice president of snark at World Series Dreaming. He loves all things Cubs, with notable exceptions (specifically, the part of Cubs fandom that pisses him off). Follow on Twitter at cubicsnarkonia

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